Breeders want a tomato with a jointless pedicel, meaning the fruit separates cleanly from the plant without a stem attached that could puncture other fruit going up a harvester conveyor.
Varieties also have to produce good yields and have good flavor.
Hutton said he thought he had some contenders last season after two trials produced promising results. But last season’s wet, cold weather promoted rough-looking, misshapen fruit that would not have been unmarketable.
“I can’t underscore the difficulty of working with this type of tomato,” Hutton said. “It was really discouraging coming out of this spring’s trials.”
But the tough conditions also yielded some other promising prototypes that warrant additional trials, he said.
The breeding effort is being funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant that runs through the 2014-15 season. In addition to Hutton, Bielinski Santos, an assistant horticulture professor, and tomato breeder Jay Scott are involved in the project.